Columbus Man Sentenced to 170 Years for Convictions on Federal Child Pornography and Alien Transporting Charges
Samuel Elliott, who Sexually Abused Three Young Children to Produce Child Pornography, was Prosecuted under Project Safe Childhood
ALBUQUERQUE – U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge Jack P. Staton of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, and Deputy Chief Justin Dunivan of the Las Cruces Police Department announced that a resident of Columbus, N.M., was sentenced late yesterday afternoon in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 170 years of imprisonment for convictions on child pornography and alien transporting charges in two separate cases.
U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack sentenced Samuel Elliott, 34, to 170 years of imprisonment in the first case for his conviction on three counts of production of child pornography and four counts of possession of child pornography. Elliott also was ordered to pay $210,012 in restitution to each of the three children victimized by Elliott’s child pornography production scheme. Judge Brack sentenced Elliott to 15 months of imprisonment in the second case for his conviction on an alien transporting charge, to be served concurrent to the sentence imposed on the child pornography charges.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson commended the exemplary collaborative investigative efforts of HSI, the New Mexico State Police and the Las Cruces Police Department for the investigation leading to Elliott’s conviction and for rescuing his victims. The U.S. Attorney added, “The victims in cases like this one are children who cannot protect themselves from harm. As the result of the sentence imposed, this sexual predator will never again exploit another child. His sentence should send a forceful message that law enforcement in New Mexico is committed to the protection of our children and will vigorously investigate and prosecute predators who exploit and abuse them.”
“Yesterday’s 170-year sentencing is an example of the U.S. government’s assurance that individuals will be held accountable for heinous acts committed against children,” said Jack P. Staton, Special Agent in Charge of HSI El Paso. “HSI and our law enforcement partners stand firm in our commitment to investigate and prosecute criminals whose heinous acts victimize and scar children for life.”
“I’m proud of the men and women of the New Mexico State Police and their dedication to keeping the children of New Mexico safe,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas. “I’m pleased that justice was served and this predator can no longer harm our kids.”
“The Las Cruces Police Department is honored to work alongside our counterparts, from local and federal agencies, to help protect our children from offenders that are poisoning our communities,” said Las Cruces Police Deputy Chief Justin Dunivan. “We believe our actions will have a significant impact and ensure that the defendant never harms another child.”
In the alien transporting case, Elliott and his brother Robert Steven Elliott, II, 35, also a resident of Columbus, were charged by criminal complaint on Sept. 4, 2013, with conspiring to transport illegal aliens on Aug. 28, 2013, in Luna County, N.M. The two were indicted on the same charge on Dec. 11, 2013. Robert Steven Elliott pled guilty to the indictment charging him with conspiring to transport illegal aliens on Jan. 22, 2014, and was sentenced on Oct. 1, 2014, to time served followed by three years of supervised release. Elliott pled guilty to the same charges on March 20, 2014.
In the child pornography case, Elliott was charged in an eight-count indictment with production and possession of child pornography. Counts 1 through 3 of the indictment alleged that between Dec. 2012 and July 2013, Elliott used three young children to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct. According to the indictment, two of the children were between one and five years of age and the third child was over the age of five years. The remaining five counts alleged that Elliott possessed child pornography in July 2013. The indictment asserted that Elliott committed all eight crimes in Luna County, N.M. A superseding indictment alleging the same charges was filed in July 2015.
On June 26, 2018, Elliott pled guilty to three counts of producing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and four counts of possessing material containing images of child pornography. In his plea agreement, Elliott admitted using a video camera to record a video of himself engaging in sexually explicit conduct with a child between one and five years of age. Elliott also admitted using a video camera to produce sexually explicit visual depictions of a sleeping child between five and eleven years of age. Elliott admitted committing these two crimes between Dec. 2012 and July 2013. Elliott also admitted that on Dec. 10, 2012, he used his iPhone to produce sexually explicit depictions of a third child who was between one and five years of age.
In his plea agreement, Elliott also acknowledged that in July 2013, the New Mexico State Police executed a search warrant at his residence and seized his iPhone, a desktop computer and a hard-drive. He also acknowledged that HSI executed a search warrant on his Dropbox online storage account. Elliott acknowledged that forensic examinations recovered thousands of images of child pornography from his iPhone; 48 images of child pornography from his hard-drive, approximately 300 images of child pornography from his desktop computer, and 72 videos of child pornography from his Dropbox online storage account.
The case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of Homeland Security Investigations, the New Mexico State Police and the Las Cruces Police Department, all of which are members of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander B. Shapiro and Marisa A. Ong of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc.
The case also was brought as a part of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force’s mission, which is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 86 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the NMOAG. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.